With a town gov’t that supports green initiatives, banning plastic bags is sidelined

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, MonroeNow, Jul 15, 2019

MONROE – Township leaders have worked to create an atmosphere of green living and sustainability that is generally support by community members. 

Over the years Monroe has purchased hundreds of acres of land, started clean-up and recycle campaigns, and holds an annual green fair. But when it comes to banning plastic bags, that’s a different story.

In a July 8 Facebook post, the township reminded residents to keep plastic bags out of recycling containers, since the bags can “jam up recycling processing equipment and can even shut down recycling center operations.”

Earlier this year, the township started a recycling campaign to provide residents tips about disposing of reusable materials, according to officials. The plastic bag post was part of the campaign.

The post prompted resident Joseph Sapia to respond calling it “psycho babble,” adding that “If the township was sincere, it would ban these bags.”

His comments also came a couple of weeks after the township announced a deal with Middlesex County to protect 59 acres of land from future development.

No legislation in the works

According to Sapia and confirmed by Councilman Charles Dipierro, a ban on plastic bags briefly came up, but never materialized.

Of the five council members contacted, three responded.

Dipierro said that he would not support a ban at this time.

Dipierro said while he supports environmental efforts he had concerns about creating legislation that may adversely impact shoppers at convenience stores and other small places where people purchase a few items.

“When you go to the convenience stores, you go to Dunkin Donuts, you’re not going to ask somebody to put the doughnut in his [reusable] bag. I’m all about the environment, but I just don’t see what the alternative is in place of it,” Dipierro said. “If you go to a food store like a Stop & Shop, that’s different.”

He added: “I’m just looking at what the state did and, and they were hot on it and then all of a sudden they went cold on it. I don’t see an alternative to, to the plastic bag.”

Council President Stephen Dalina and Councilwoman Miriam Cohen, who responded via the township’s public information office, didn’t commit to a ban or not, but supported green efforts.

“Monroe Township has achieved silver status by Sustainable New Jersey,” said Cohen. “We are one of only three communities in Middlesex County to achieve this level. We are always looking for ways to advance environmental stewardship and welcome suggestions.”

Dalina said: “Separate form recycling, I don’t recall anyone bringing up a ban on plastic bags last year, but I recall it was mentioned briefly at a meeting two weeks ago. It is certainly something we can review, but I know from the newspaper that the legislature is studying and debating this issue from a statewide perspective.”

Slowly gaining momentum in New Jersey towns

Banning plastics bags in New Jersey has been met with mixed opinions.

The state Legislature previously considered a ban, but those efforts have stalled. The latest version would ban single-use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene food containers. It would also add a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

A bill did reach Governor Murphy’s desk, however, it was not strict enough, according to reports from NJ.com.

The media site also reports that as of July 11, at least 19 towns and Atlantic County have enacted bans on plastic bags, with the most recent being Maplewood.

In Middlesex County, only Highland Park has a ban. The law phases in the ban, which was approved Feb. 19. The first phase that started May 1, charges customers 10 cents per plastic bag they use. Retailers can provide a “compliant paper bag at no charge.”

The second phase set to begin Nov. 1, would charge shoppers at 10 cent fee for use of “compliant paper bag,” and prohibits retailers from offering plastic carry-out bags.

Nationwide, New York, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Delaware, California and Hawaii have banned plastic bag use in some form, according to a report from the National Law Review